The conservation of biodiversity differs from traditional nature preservation in that it is less of a defensive mechanism than a proactive effort- seeking to meet human needs (read not greed) from biological resources and at the same time sustainably managing these resources for the future generation.
"East or West home is the best" phrase hold true for plants and animals.The destruction of their habitat ultimately means the destruction of many species of plants and animals. Wildlife habitats on the Tibetan Plateau need to be protected pro-actively. Wherever possible the niches of wildlife regions must be restored. So that once again some silent habitats will teem with wildlife.
One way of conserving the habitats for species survival is the setting up of nature parks and reserves for wildlife. There are in total 21 'nature reserves'on the Tibetan Plateau. These reserves have actually no practical protection. There is no strict wildlife warden or reserve managers to manage the wildlife in these so called reserves. Therefore there is the need of more sustained and active involvement of the government and local people through financial and human resource mobilization.
It is not because there is no laws for the conservation of wildlife on the Tibetan Plateau. But, because these laws are too weak to stamp-out the illegal activities of seasoned poachers and hunters. There are many loop holes where wildlife criminals and black-marketers get out easy without paying fines or undergoing jail sentences.
China's State Councillor, Chen Junsheng, said in a Xinhua official China news agency report (Jan, 1995) that more efforts are needed to protect forest, rare wildlife, including revising the existing forestry laws and drawing up new laws to crack down on illegal logging and hunting. However, nothing seems to be happening. So action is needed, not lip service.
Consume, pollute, and throw away modern consumerism is regarded by the Chinese government, unluckily by some Tibetans as sign of prosperity and social status. Ironically this modern disease is responsible for many of the environmental ills of this century. Therefore, this old mentality should be transformed to a more compassionate, caring, and universal brotherhood consciousness as championed by none other than His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In other words before we go on to clean the external environment, it is an urgent task to clean the inner environment i.e. one's defiled mind.
Chinese character or word for animal means "moving things"! Considering wild animals as things to be consumed or used for human purpose is no doubt a backward ideology. And this attitude of Chinese is the main cause behind the loss of biodiversity on the Tibetan Plateau. Therefore, the Tibetan Buddhist ideology of respecting wild animals as equal partners in an interdependent natural ecosystem should be given prominence and not looked down as 'backward' as most Chinese still tend to do. It is the Chinese who have to be educated or rather liberated to use a socialist term so as to conserve wholistically the biodiversity of the Tibetan Plateau for posterity.
Grassroot conservation education and extension services should be provided to the younger generation. These education and training can easily be build upon the rich Buddhist ecological ethic.
The conservation education and training will include wildlife management, wildlife research, designing nature parks and reserves, conservation training, conservation workshop and education, conservation extension work etc. Chinese scientist Li Bosheng, who has done extensive research on Plateau's biodiversity says that one of the biggest stumbling block in the path of conserving biodiversity in Tibet is the shortage of talented personnel and lack of funds and materials. Tibetan and international bodies and the government of China can play active role in such avenues.
"We know what is good for you" approach of arrogance by China or international donor agencies usually doesn't work in other countries and so is the case in Tibet. One prominent fact must be understood crystal clear that Tibetans have lived in harmony with nature for centuries.
Tibetan Buddhists' earth friendly value system should be at the core of any conservation agenda or programs initiated either by China or international agencies. Many Chinese scientists are now beginning to recommend this concept such as Zhang Rongzu, 1989 who says "It is worth considering the significance of this tradition (Tibetan). It must be treated as a sound background for any kind of economic development initiatives, rather than simply presuming that it is backward. Many experiences of inner China and its conventional models have a limited relevance here (Tibet)."
Better and more research on the biodiversity of the Tibetan Plateau will shed light on the habits and habitats of rare and endangered plants and animals of Tibet. Here the call is for sensitive research, which respect Tibetan culture and tradition to sustainably manage the biological resources.
Research on the carrying-capacity of pastures, forests, lakes and other natural resources should be conducted for the long-term environmental management of the Tibetan Plateau.
The domestic and international scientific network on biodiversity should be strengthened to improve communication and information flow among scientists and researchers in developing and developed countries to share experiences or learn lessons from each other.
International agencies should support long-term ecological research in Tibet so as to provide a baseline for understanding natural ecosystems and learning how to modify them most effectively, consistent with development need of the Tibetan people.
The data of remote sensing techniques, coupled with data management capacity of Geographic Information Systems(GIS), offer unprecedented opportunities to assess and monitor ecosystem processes. Training opportunities to Tibetans must be made available through international development assistance.
The single most biggest threat to the environment of the Tibetan plateau, especially its wildlife is the transfer of huge number of Chinese settlers who open-up new forest regions for agriculture, industries and small factories.
To inflict extra burden on the fragile environment of Tibet, according to Xu Chengshi and Zhong Bu ("Yangtze Exodus Begins", Panoscope: No.37, London 1993), some of the 1.2 million Chinese who will be evicted by the massive three Gorges Dam being build on the Yangtze River may go to Tibet. Sources within Tibet say at least 1 million Chinese will move to Kongpo region in Tibet because of climatic similarity with the Yangtze region from where the Chinese are being displaced.
Moreover the increased number of Chinese settlers pouring into the lower valleys of Tibet (winter pastures of nomads) have disrupted the traditional migration pattern of nomadic herds, thereby pushing them to marginal areas leading to overgrazing. The conversion of marginal lands for agriculture for Chinese settlers has devastated the vast grasslands in Amdo (DIIR, 1996).
The guanxi the Chinese character for (personal connection) system is popular in China and this social disease is fast overtaking Tibet.
For example, to log Tibet's forests one need to get a 'license' which can be easily obtained if right personal connection strings are in place. Thus some Chinese officials use the resources on the Tibetan Plateau as their private property and give permission to cut down trees, kill or hunt animals as they fancy.
Mr. Gonpo Standing Committee member, Tibet People's Political Consultative Conference during the committee's meeting in Lhasa 16-22nd May 1995 said "Citizens of Lhasa and Nyingtri (in Kongpo region of Tibet) have expressed serious concern over the destruction of forest by timber poachers on the excuse that they have official 'license' from the various government forest departments (district, municipality, county, province) to fell trees." One can well imagine how many backdoor activities could be operated within these bureaucratic network.
Recent research work in the development field by domestic, international, bilateral and multi-lateral agencies show that 'top-down' development projects is no longer the trend. For successful realization of a project 'bottom-up' strategy i.e. giving more decision making power to local people such as involving local people in project appraisal, implementation, and evaluation. This trend is obvious because local people have lived, sustained and survived in their native regions for thousands of years by maintaining the delicate balance of nature. Totalitarian China regime is still using the old style of controlling the masses through 'top-down' approach. This trend will soon crumble as China is fast opening its markets to international business ventures.
In 1980 Wolong Nature Reserve of Kham (incorporated in Sichuan), which is the main habitat of giant panda was designated as international biosphere conservation areas by the Man and the Biosphere Program of UNESCO. Such UNESCO actions should be further increased through international participation, pressure, activism to include major portion of rich forest resources of the eastern Tibetan Plateau as international biosphere reserves.
Copyright 1998-2005, Tibet Environmental Watch (TEW)